Skal Labissiere, Denio Chirindja

Can John Calipari pull Skal Labissiere out of Memphis?

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HAMPTON, Va. — There’s not a single recruit in the country more interesting that Skal Labissiere.

Lets start with the basics. He’s a 6-foot-9 sophomore that can run the floor and has the kind of length and athleticism that makes schools like Kentucky and Kansas very, very interested in him. Rivals currently has him ranked as the No. 6 recruit in the Class of 2015. That alone is enough to make him worth watching in each and every basketball game that he plays.

Now throw in the fact that he’s a native of Haiti whose house literally collapsed on him in the devastating earthquake that leveled the country back in 2010. As recently as last July his parents were still living in the school in which his mother was the principal.

That’s not it. Labissiere, who now lives in Mississippi just south of Memphis and plays his high school ball in the city and his AAU ball for Penny Hardaway’s team, is setting himself up to be in the middle of a recruiting battle between current Memphis head coach Josh Pastner and current Kentucky head coach John Calipari, who didn’t exactly make a lot of friends on his way out of the Tiger program.

“Memphis and Kentucky. They’re coming at me the hardest,” Labissiere said, while also mentioning Kansas and Auburn had offered him and that UCLA, Georgetown and Tennessee were showing a lot of interest.

Perhaps Coach Cal knows that he’ll have his work cut out for him pulling a player out of Memphis, because he extended an offer to Skal after seeing him play just one game, the first high school game of the season, despite the fact that Labissiere “didn’t have a great game.”

“Coach Cal told me, ‘usually we don’t offer kids that young,'” he said.

Labissiere said that he likes that Kentucky gets players to the next level, and that’s not a difficult sell when Coach Cal can claim at least two, and potentially a third, No. 1 overall picks — Marcus Camby, Nerlens Noel and Anthony Davis — that have the same build as Labissiere. But he also added that Pastner “is a really good guy” and that he enjoys the Memphis coaching staff and likes the way that the Tigers play.

“People talk about that a lot in Memphis, because not everybody in Memphis likes Coach Cal,” he said.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament chances take a major blow in loss to No. 16 SMU

SMU guard Nic Moore (11) shoots over Gonzaga forward Kyle Wiltjer (33) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
(AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
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Nic Moore scored 18 of his 25 points in the second half and added 11 assists as No. 16 SMU knocked off Gonzaga in Moody Coliseum on Saturday night, 69-60.

The Zags got 20 points and 16 boards from Domantas Sabonis, but Kyle Wiltjer scored just four points and shot 2-for-17 from the floor.

It wasn’t pretty.

And it may have been the end of Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament hopes.

Entering Saturday, the Zags had an RPI in the mid-60s, enough to keep them in the bubble conversation but not enough to make them anything more than a team that will be projected to end up on the cut-line.

The issue is a complete lack of quality wins on their résumé. Gonzaga beat UConn in the Bahamas. That’s a borderline top 50 win. They beat Washington, another borderline top 50 win. Beyond that? They swept Pepperdine, beat Tennessee and own a win over Montana. None of those are top 100 wins, and that’s why the SMU game was such a big deal. The Mustangs are a top 25 team. This was a road game. This win was the kind of thing that the Zags could pin at the top of their profile.

But Wiltjer didn’t show up, the Zags had no answer for Moore and they’ll head back to Spokane needing, in all likelihood, to win the WCC’s automatic bid if they want to dance.

POSTERIZED: Cal’s Jaylen Brown has his dunk contest entry

California's Jaylen Brown lays up a shot against Oregon State in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
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Cal picked up a big win over Oregon State in Haas Pavilion on Saturday night, and the exclamation point was this emphatic dunk from Jaylen Brown: